The migration of crypto from digital wallets to balance sheets could create a new storyline in an already engaging narrative on Bitcoin M&A. Financial institutions could increasingly vie against payments companies as bidders for tech targets working to scale Bitcoin infrastructure.

A monitor displays Coinbase signage during the company’s initial public offering

A growing roster of early adopters holding crypto directly in corporate treasuries include MassMutual, MicroStrategy, Tesla, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday. MicroStrategy’s $5.3 billion hoard leads the pack.

These companies’ willingness to transact with customers directly in Bitcoin potentially creates a new market in services for the banks that service them, few of which have made the move to facilitating crypto thus far. Bank of New York Mellon is among the outlying large financial institutions to announce plans to offer crypto accounts.

The problem? The creation of a scalable infrastructure to service large corporate customers entirely in crypto could take time. The Wall Street Journal reported that even Square’s Cash App, which allows customers to transact in Bitcoin, does not yet allow merchants on the platform to accept it, citing limitations on scalable purchasing.

Could financial institutions’ drive to service corporations make takeover targets of the tech companies building pieces of that infrastructure?

Here, a look at the other large holders of crypto could be instructive. Behind retail-facing Tesla’s $2.6 billion Bitcoin stash are payments and crypto infrastructure companies potentially capable of narrowing the gap on their own. Square itself holds $463 million in cryptocurrency on its ledger, ahead of Marathon Digital Holdings’ $304 million and Riot Blockchain’s $68 million.

BNY Mellon is already acquiring its own way to proficiency: its crypto build-out will be facilitated by its acquisition of a stake in crypto storage platform Fireblocks. The $133 million funding round announced last month values Fireblocks at $1 billion.

If this buy-and-build strategy sounds familiar, it’s because payments companies have been chasing digital assets for some time now. Remember Visa Inc. and Mastercard Inc.’s bidding war for Ripple-affiliated payments processor Earthport back in 2019?  The difference now is the players: should traditional financial institutions join the fray, competition for crypto infrastructure is likely to stiffen.

Add that to parallel M&A strategies for digital currency exchanges, and this could be a frothy year for deals.